Nov. 1, 2012 Tossing Out Hardware For Winter Steelies

Written By: Bill Adelman, November 2, 2012

Last time we did a little angling for stripers, however the bite was either red hot or blue cold.  As the guy said in the movie, “when you’re hot, your hot and when you’re not, you’re not.” That about summed it up.

Early season steelies are already in the Feather though, and that’s good news. The Feather River in the area from Oroville downstream to Live Oak will be fishing fairly well all season.  One of the advantages to fishing this area is the public access. When parking along the river, don’t forget to remove anything of value from your vehicle. 

Tossing hardware.  Ever since the creation of dirt and steelhead, these ocean run trout have been enticed with hardware.  Wobbling spoons such as the Lil Cleo, Kastmaster, Krocodile or my all time fave, the Gypsy Queen will grab the attention of a finning steelie.  

There’s a tad more to it though than flingin’ and reelin’.  Generally speaking, a slower presentation works best.  The method of retrieval is always dictated by the depth and flow.  As you’ll almost always be fishing over rocks or gravel, the chances of the ever popular “boulder grab” is a certainty.  

When this occurs to another angler just down the gravel bar from your position, as it will NEVER happen to you, this bit of advice could be offered, putting you in the position of being a “good guy." Rather than walk way downstream & attempting to pull it free, first try the slingshot technique.  

Either open the bail or release the spool and hold the line tightly in your off hand.  Apply enough pressure so as to put a serious bend in the rod while holding it as high over your head as possible.  In one swift motion, release the line and lower the rod flat to the water, lift the rod very quickly and reel hard.  

This should pop your lure and you’re back in business without giving up your spot.  The angler you just helped out will be so grateful that he’ll probably invite you over for dinner, or at least give you ½ of his last chocolate donut, which has been crunched in his vest since 4 AM.

Most likely, you’ll be tossing into water from 3 to 5 feet deep, so as you begin your retrieve, hold the rod tip in an elevated position.  This will hold the spoon higher in the water column.  As the lure swings across the flow, lower the rod tip at the same speed as the swing, reeling very slowly, if at all, just so as to avoid the now famous“boulder grab."

As soon as you feel the tic of the bottom, lift and crank just enough to clear the obstruction.  As your offering clears the flow and settles in slower water, crank 'er in and git to castin’ again. 

Steelhead will hold in very specific areas.  These could be right on the inside of a bubble line or flow change where the water more or less hides the fish from flying predators.  

Whitewater flows, especially near the tailouts also hold fish. Large boulders, not the ones that eat lures, create a flow break which trout love, sitting right behind them directly in the break. Back in the days when I actually “worked,” one of my favorite sections of the river was piled up with old cars that were rescued from demolition derbies.

Right at the upstream end was an old Chevy, #12, that sat about 30 feet ahead of the next loser.  No less than 50% of the time, the flow break held a steelhead.  Sure makes a guide look good when he “calls” the strike.  However, on one of those cold and windy days I was pulling for Doc.  

After his rod slammed against the gunnel of my driftboat and at least a 10# fish leaped high and tossed the Hot Shot, I asked him – Why didn’t you set-n-crank?  I didn’t think there’d be a fish there, he responded.  NEVER assume when steelhead fishing!

Back to hardware.  Steelhead will hold tightly in one position and if your lure misses one by 3-4 feet, they generally won’t move to grab it.  This indicates giving all likely looking areas the once, or twice, over.  On more than one occasion we spotted fish holding, spooked em & saw them return within minutes to the exact spot they just vacated.  

If this happens, don’t start tossing all over the creek trying to locate that fish.  Stop fishing, wait and observe.  Be sure to be in the exact position you need to be in to make that one “perfect” cast when, (IF), that same fish returns.  Next time – more steelhead stuff..  Seeya then, and Tight Lines!!! 

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